Awesome Conferences

June 2010 Archives

(Reposting this announcement from Dan)

Fellow SysAds etc.-

First, I'd like to make sure you are all aware of the Configuration Management Summit next week in Boston on June 24 (details are at The first Configuration Management Summit aims to bring together developers, power users, and new adopters of open source configuration management tools for automating system administration. Configuration management is a growth area in the IT industry, and open source solutions, with cost savings and an active user community, are presenting a serious challenge to today's "big vendor" products. Representatives from Bcfg2, Cfengine, Chef, and Puppet will all be participating in the summit - this will be a valuable opportunity if you have been contemplating a configuration management solution for your systems.

There is also a special one-day training on Cfengine being taught by Mark Burgess on June 25 (details are at This class might be a review session for anyone on this mailing list, but it will also offer useful insights for people who are not new to Cfengine. Additionally, If you have colleagues who need to come up to speed on Cfengine quickly, this class will be an excellent opportunity for them to learn Cfengine directly from the author.

If you are interested in either event, you can register at (and if you have questions, you can email me directly). I hope to see you in Boston!

Daniel Klein
Education Director

DebConf coming soon!

Debian Conference is the annual Debian developers meeting, an event filled with coding parties, discussions and workshops - all of them highly technical in nature. It will be held in New York City, USA, August 1-7, 2010.

It is right in my neighborhood too! (so to speak, I live across the river).

More info here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

If you study system administrators and are interested in presenting a paper about it, don't forget that the deadline for CHIMIT '10 is July 3, 2010. (The conference is Nov 12-13, 2010)

People study system administrators? Yes! They do. They want to know how we communicate, how we work, and what tools we use and what tools we dislike.

What is CHIMIT? CHI (Computer-Human Interaction) is the area of research that studies how people interact with computers. For example, usability research falls under the academic category of CHI. CHIMIT is an annual conference for CHI researcher for the Management of Information Technology.

What is CHIMIT '10? It is a conference! The next one is in San Jose, CA from November 12-13, 2010. Is it nearby to where the Usenix LISA conference is held, making it easy to attend both. It is an ACM conference in cooperation with Usenix and SIGCHI.

Can I attend if I'm not a researcher? Absolutely. In fact, we want system administrators to attend. Researchers want to interact with us. Also, it's fun to watch them present about us. The education goes both ways. (and the conference usually has a panel of sysadmins)

Flyer about the conference: flyer in PDF form

More info about the conference:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

Do you run a user group for sysadmins, Linux users, or whatever?

Do you have a problem finding speakers?

Do you have a particular attendee that is troublesome and you aren't sure what to do?

Are you new to all this and want advice?

Well, I can't help you.

However, there is a new mailing list for people that run user groups. UG-Leaders was recently created by William Bilancio who happens to run the UG that I most often attend: LOPSA-NJ

The mailing list's description is simple:
This mailing list is for people that run technical user groups (LUGs,sysadmin user groups, SAGE or LOPSA chapters, and so on). The purpose of this mailing list is to encourage information shareing on topics such as:

How to promote your group, how to find speakers, how to get started, tips on how to run a meeting, volunteer retention, and anything else related to the running of such groups. The only forbidden topic is who's computer/editor/OS/language/whatever is better/worse that mine/yours.

Thanks for creating this group, William! It sounds great!

Join the mailing list at this page:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Like many system administrators, I learned HTML a long time ago but didn't have the need to learn the newer technologies as they appeared: Javascript, AJAX, and so on. Sure, we know enough to talk about them intelligently but not enough to program them.

It has come time for me to learn those things.

I think a lot of sysadmins out there are in a similar situation therefore I'm going to document my journey in hopes that others can benefit.

First, let me be clear about what's driving my decisions:

  • I'm smart. I don't want to be talked down to.
  • I'm busy. Training materials will have to "get to the point" and should be a document I can read on my own time.
  • I'm lazy. I don't want to do a lot of work. I want a framework that does 90% of the work for me.
  • I'm in a hurry. I'm not going to spend a lot of time evaluating tools. If something is popular or popular with the coworkers nearest my desk, I'm going to use it. If it turns out to be a bad decision at least I have nearby people to cry with.
  • I'm really lazy. I don't want to have to reinvent the wheel.

There are plenty of Javascript books that assume the reader has never touched a programming language before. Ugh. That's exactly what I want to avoid. Instead I need a "JavaScript for people that already know C", and a "writing web apps for people that already know how Unix works" and a framework that does most of the work for me.

As I find resources that help me do this I'll be writing about them and tagging these posts "AJAX Education".

So far I've gotten up to speed pretty quickly with these resources:

  1. Javascript: A re-introduction to JavaScript from the Mozilla organization. This has taught me Javascript in practically one sitting. It assumes you already know "C". For example, it doesn't explain what "x += 1" does, it just says that the feature exists in the language.
  2. AJAX Basics: Basics of Ajax from "Software As She's Developed" is available as a Podcast, but I've been the notes they've linked to on So far I've read these two patterns and I already feel like the veil has been lifted:
  3. Django: The web framework I've picked is Django. I'm working through the online Djanjo Tutorial which is excellent. Hats off to the project for having such excellent documentation. Why did I choose this framework? (1) It uses Python, my new favorite language, (2) the person that sits next to me at work uses it, answers my questions quickly, and hasn't gotten annoyed yet. (If he starts to ask me if I've considered learning Ruby-On-Rails you know he's gotten fed up with all my questions.)
  4. Google Closure: Nobody uses Javascript without a code library to do the hard parts for them. These libraries "do the right thing" so that you don't have to care about browser differences (OMG are there differences!) and implement high-level things like pull-down menus, image zooming, etc. The two most popular seem to be jQuery and Closure. I'm using Closure because (1) my employer maintains it, and (2) there is no reason #2. (If you worked for Ford would you buy a Honda?). I've basically gotten up to speed already by reading the Getting Started guide and looking around the API reference

Ok, that's enough reading material for this week. Hopefully the next article will be about my success getting a mock up of my future web app up and running.

Please post comments. Tell me what resources you've found useful!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in AJAX Education

Sadly I can't attend this because I have plans already, but I'm really excited that my home state is opening a hackspace!

Info about the kickoff party:

Where: 403 Cleveland Ave, Highland Park, NJ
When: June 5th 1pm-6pm

New Jersey's Only Hackerspace finally has....well.....a space! Stop by our new location, check out what we're working on, find out what FUBAR Labs is all about. We will be demonstrating our 3D printer, and showcasing member projects. Drop in any time between 1pm and 6pm.

Following the Open house will be our move in Celebration at 8pm. We've finally moved in to our new location! Come help us celebrate. Enjoy drinks served by our bartending robot and request your favorite songs from our artificially intelligent DJ. Suggested donation is $10


I wish this project great success! It sounds awesome!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Today's Dilbert.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Funny

Sysadmin appreciation day meetup at The Gingerman in NYC. If you are in CT, NY, NJ come and hang out, Friday, July 30th at 7:30pm!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Sysadmin appreciation day meetup at The Gingerman in NYC. If you are in CT, NY, NJ come and hang out, Friday, July 30th at 7:30pm!

(If you have a similar event in your area, let me know and I'll promote it here.)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Nominations are being collected for the 2010 SysAdmin of the Year Award. This year the primary sponsor is OpenDNS.

Yes, you can self-nominate.

This year there are individual categories:
  • Best Disaster Response Award
  • Neat Freak Award
  • Shoestring Budget Award
  • Flying Solo Award
  • Large-Scale Deployment Award
  • DevOps Award

"Winners in each category will receive a prize of $50, and from all entries the judging committee will choose one winner that stands out among the rest as the official OpenDNS SysAdmin of the Year."

Read more about it here.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Emacs can do everything, it can even manage your todo list. Org-Mode is "for keeping notes, maintaining ToDo lists, doing project planning, and authoring with a fast and effective plain-text system."

I have seen demos of Org-Mode and was very impressed by it. It certainly has all the features needed for doing The Cycle, the system I recommend in Time Management for System Administrators

If you are in the Philadelphia area, tonight PLUG presents Paul Snyder speaking on Org-Mode. Check it out!